The Woodland Trust Northern Ireland has opened the gates of Glas-na-Bradan Wood and thanked funders and volunteers at an event to mark the first phase of works complete on its new Belfast Hills woodland.
The Woodland Trust purchased the site, named Glas-na-Bradan Wood by the public, in 2021 with funding from Biffa Award and Northern Ireland Environment Agency. In its first year of ownership, the Woodland Trust has completed its plans to improve access and plant over 45,000 trees in this major project that will help transform the Belfast horizon.
NIEA funding has been allocated to complete a programme of works that includes the upgrade of the existing 2km walking track to the top of the hill and the creation of a signature ford to cross the ‘Stream of the Salmon’- the Glas-na-Bradan River.
Other works include the installation of management gates with traditional stone pillars, kissing gates to enable public access on foot, and fencing around the boundary of the site. Their funding also secured two staff posts for two years, namely a Project Manager and a Community Development Officer, to implement the plans for Glas-na-Bradan Wood.
Over 45,000 trees and 5km of hedging were planted by 1300 volunteers in the first year of a five-year tree and hedge community planting scheme. Forest Service NI funded the establishment of the trees in 2021-2022 through a Small Woodland Grant Scheme for 14.7hectares and the fencing around the planted area with a grant of £80,000.
Ian McCurley, Director of Woodland Trust Northern Ireland said: “We are delighted to open the gates of Glas-na-Bradan Wood for the public in time for summer 2022 and we hope that this young woodland will become a regular destination for people to explore on foot. We need to plant more trees on a landscape scale like Glas-na-Bradan Wood, across Northern Ireland for people, nature and climate.”
Visitors who walk to the top of Glas-na-Bradan Wood, one of the highest points in the Belfast Hills, will be rewarded with panoramic views across Northern Ireland. On clear days, views stretch as far as Slemish to the north, Lough Neagh to the west and Strangford and the Mournes to the south.
Gregor Fulton, Senior Outreach Manager for Woodland Trust Northern Ireland said: “We really want to thank everyone who has helped us so far. NIEA gave us funding of just over £150,000 to improve walking trails for people to their new free space so were able to resurface the existing walking trail and install drains to redirect water running off the hill. With the financial support of a Forest Service NI Woodland Grant, we can create a fantastic 57-hectare native woodland in Greater Belfast, and we have just put down our spades from our first planting season here. Finally, we want to thank all of the 1300 volunteers who planted over 45,000 trees at 36 planting events, come rain or shine!”
DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “In March 2020, I launched the Forests For Our Future programme, where I pledged to plant 18 million trees by 2030 and create 9,000 hectares of new woodland to help our environment and economy. To date, approximately 1.75 million trees, of which 1.1 million are native tree species have been planted to create almost 900 hectares of new woodland. I am pleased that the Woodland Trust have engaged successfully with forestry grant schemes in support of planting at Glas-na-Bradan Wood and at a number of other new woodlands across Northern Ireland. Each of these new accessible woodlands will contribute to the Forests for Our Future programme.
“My department has recently provided considerable financial support to the Woodland Trust to acquire substantial land holdings in the Belfast Hills and Mourne Park, Co. Down. The Woodland Trust will manage the 98ha block of land for nature conservation, countryside access and carbon capture in the Belfast Hills.
“The project represents a major environmental gain for Belfast and indeed all of Northern Ireland through significant native woodland planting, priority habitat restoration and management, general biodiversity conservation, carbon capture and landscape preservation, as well as creating appropriate countryside recreation opportunities. This is a great example of a project that will deliver beneficial outcomes and contribute to Green Growth and the Forests for our Future initiatives.”
Work will continue this year on Glas-na-Bradan Wood with the second stage of community consultation and community planting from November onwards.
For more information on Glas-na-Bradan Wood visit http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/northern-ireland